Caribbean News in Brief – January 13, 2010

KEEPING WATCH

Brades, Montserrat: The people of Montserrat are continuing to keep close watch on the Soufriere Hills volcano, which exploded twice on Sunday.

Hot rock and ash and gas have traveled down the volcano, forcing officials to reinforce living areas, known as “safe zones”.

Authorities say the latest activity has shown that their reluctance to relax the alert level was justified.

One of the island’s residents, restaurant owner Mariet Walters, said living side by side with an active volcano is unsettling and not good for business. However, she has no plans to leave the island anytime soon.

Walters described the volcano as “a devious thing” blowing ash into the lives of residents who had to be constantly cleaning their homes and businesses.

VOTE WELCOMED

Fort-de-France, Martinique: In referendums held last weekend, the French overseas departments of Martinique and French Guiana both rejected the option of greater autonomy.

Nearly 70 per cent of voters in French Guiana and more than 79 per cent in Martinique voted to remain overseas departments that count as full parts of France and the European Union.

The referendums are a setback for local lawmakers, who hoped to gain more administrative leeway to initiate legislation of their own.

The results have, however, been welcomed by businessman Bernard Degentile, the Vice President of the Martinique Chamber of Commerce.

He said the results showed that the people had a “lack of trust” in local politicians.

MEDICAL TEAM ARRIVES

Kingston, Jamaica: The Ministry of Health says that an 11 member medical team from Cuba, who will be working at the Ophthalmology Centre in Kingston, has arrived in Jamaica.

The team consists of a doctor, seven nurses and three medical technicians. They will ensure that all systems are in place for the successful operations of the Eye Care Centre.

The Ophthalmology Centre at St Joseph’s Hospital in Kingston will begin operations shortly. It was established as part of an agreement signed between Jamaica and Cuba. A team from the ministry is now working with Cubans to install equipment at the Centre. The National Chest Hospital, where patients will be sent to recover from surgeries, is now fully equipped.

The team will stay at the newly refurbished staff residence at the National Chest Hospital. The residence was effectively completed at a cost of approximately $6 million and will house 22 Cubans.

SUPPORT FOR CHILDREN

Port-au-Prince, Haiti: A star-studded auction has been taking place on eBay to raise money for the nation’s children, according to the World Food Program.

Actor Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith are among those auctioning artwork, which is based on a map of world hunger, decorated with personalized silhouettes drawn by Will Smith, his family, and artists who performed at the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Norway in December, including Wyclef Jean, Natasha Bedingfield and Donna Summer.

The United Nations agency provides meals to more than 500,000 Haitian school children.

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